a widow completes her grieving in Costa Rica

Im trudging up a steep incline through driving mist on the slope to a volcano. Didn’t bring warm clothes. My daughters said it would be warm in Costa Rica. Sunny. That I should get away from winter…especially now.

I shiver. Who knew? Our driver said it was a “frente frio”, a cold front coming down from North America. So now it’s my fault. I brought the chill with me all the way from Wisconsin.

Harold would have been complaining all the way…cost, cold, having to get up early to have a driver drag us all over town to pick up people on our tour. Why couldn’t we have been one of the last ones and been allowed to sleep a little longer?

I hated his crabbing. God I miss him. So now my glasses are misted over with tiny spits of rain or is it cloud?…the kind of thing that would cause freezing rain back home, ice all over everything. Tree limbs breaking, power out, car accidents.

Back home. I should be glad it’s finally over. Helping Harold let go was such a strain. Well, at least with all this wet no one can tell I’m crying.

So, let’s see this grand volcano. I slide through the crowd of fellow tourists, plastic ponchos crinkling and snapping in the howling wind. Whose idea was this? I find a spot at the rail, look down. Nothing but cloud. A huge round bowl of fog that’s creeping up and up on its way to enveloping me as well. I’m out of here.

On our way back down the mountain, the condensation seems to have slid into the bus as well. All the windows are fogged, including the driver’s. Don’t his defrosters work? I wonder how he can see this skinny, twisting road let alone oncoming traffic and motorcycles and people walking alongside. I want to shout, “Use your wipers and wipe the inside of the windshield.”

A pair of red brake lights glow ahead. We slow down. Stop. I take my own advice and rub my hand on my window. Through my temporary porthole I see that we’re at a one lane bridge taking turns to cross. On the side of the road a man stands in the swirling mist holding a white plastic box full of strawberries. Fresas. Bright red, ripe strawberries. “Wait. Stop. Alto!” I call out to the driver. “The fresas,” I stammer. “I buy fresas.”

“No here. We stop later,” he replies.

I know what he’s getting at. He wants to stop at the same little tourist trap we hit on the way up so we could buy cheap rain ponchos. I’m sure he gets a commission on sales from them. But I want these berries. I need these berries now and I’m tired of being of being pushed around by doctors and nurses and undertakers and ministers. I’m sick of being grateful for casseroles and sympathetic hugs and well-meaning children.

The driver starts to pull ahead. I stand up and start shouting…well, screaming, actually. “Stop. Alto!” When the driver hesitates, I step into the doorway and bang on the door. He finally stops and lets me out.

I stand in the dripping wet, open the box of berries and bite into the taste of summer. Summer will come, I finally realize. I will take my grandkids to go berry picking like we always do. And we’ll freeze some and make strawberry shortcake and I’ll put up some jam like Harold and I did every June.

I climb back aboard the bus. Nod to the driver. “Gracias.”

Yes. Now we can cross the bridge.

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